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Mon, 23 Jan 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Basic distinctions between criminal sociopaths and psychopaths

Many forensic psychologists, psychiatrists and criminologists use the terms sociopathy and psychopathy interchangeably. Leading experts disagree on whether there are meaningful differences between the two conditions. I contend that there are clear and significant distinctions between them.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013, lists both sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading of Antisocial Personality Disorders (ASPD). These disorders share many common behavioral traits which lead to the confusion between them. Key traits that sociopaths and psychopaths share include:
  • A disregard for laws and social mores
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • A failure to feel remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behavior
In addition to their commonalities, sociopaths and psychopaths also have their own unique behavioral characteristics, as well.

Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long. It is difficult but not impossible for sociopaths to form attachments with others. Many sociopaths are able to form an attachment to a particular individual or group, although they have no regard for society in general or its rules. In the eyes of others, sociopaths will appear to be very disturbed. Any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people's trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them, and will appear normal to unsuspecting people. Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature.

Comment: Psychopathy is untreatable. According to the experts, they are politicians, judges, church leaders, doctors, even teachers. To understand the suffering caused worldwide by these human-like beings, see:


Spotting the sociopath in your midst

© unknown
They always know how to get what they want from you. They know your weaknesses better than anyone, even yourself. They can always turn a no into a yes, and they don't seem particularly concerned with laws, safety, or right and wrong. They're the most predatory members of our society, and they'll take what they want, and hang you out to dry.

They're also a bit more complicated than all that.

In recent years, the term "sociopath" has become a loaded word. Uttering it creates an immediate knee jerk response in the listener, and for anyone who doesn't have any real world experience with a sociopath, hearing that word probably brings to mind a barrage of Hollywood villains, cop shows, and serial killers. Unfortunately, the media's portrayal of this mental condition couldn't be further from the truth.

Comment: It's best to cut off all contact with the psychopath, but first one must know how to identify them. For more on sociopaths and psychopaths see: There is also Robert Hare's books Without Conscience and Snakes in Suits as well as Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door.

Life Preserver

Learning to silence critical self-talk

Self-nurturing means, above all, making a commitment to self-compassion. - Jennifer Louden
When does your internal critic show up? Is it when you spill your coffee? When you forget to buy the bread? When you speak too harshly to your children? Is it when you made the C when you were striving for the A, or is it when you didn't get invited to the party?

There are many opportunities for the internal critic to sneak in and remind you of your faults, your failures and your frailties. For some, the internal critic appears with such regularity that it does its dirty work unnoticed. Anything we experience regularly tends to drop out of our awareness. We don't usually notice our breathing, our eyes blinking or the sensation of the shoes on our feet because those things happen to us all the time.

Comment: Self-criticism and perfectionism can become so habitual, that we fail to notice the continual stream of negative thoughts that slowly undermine our being. Learning to notice these thoughts and talk back to that critical 'parent' is more important than many people realize as our very lives might be at stake.

To learn more about self-critical thinking and perfectionism, listen to the interview with Dr. Aleta Edwards on SOTT Talk Radio. Dr. Edwards is the author of the best-selling e-book Fear of the Abyss: Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism.

People 2

Luke Ruehlman, aged two: I was a woman called Pam in a past life

© Screengrab/Fox 2
An internet search revealed a woman called Pam did die in a fire.
When Luke Ruehlman began talking about a woman named Pam, his mother Erica assumed it was just an imaginary friend.

She had no idea where her toddler son had picked up the name or why he was so obsessed with it.

The Ohio woman said she initially didn't think it was strange, other than the fact that the family didn't know any Pams.

But things became really strange when she quizzed him about where he had got the name from and why he liked it.

The then-two-year-old told his parents he used to be Pam, a girl with black hair, he said.


Human communication slants towards the positive across multiple languages and many modes

Billions of words analysed in 10 world languages and this mood keeps shining through.

Across multiple languages and in many modes — movie subtitles, music lyrics, Russian literature — human communication skews towards the positive, a new study finds.

Scientists have gathered billions of words from Korean Twitter feeds, Arabic movie subtitles, The New York Times and much more to try and answer an age-old question about whether human beings tend to talk more about the brighter side of life.


Trying to understand the teenage mind

© Thinkstock
To their parents, teenagers may seem like the laziest, most foolish, and most self-centered beings on the planet, but according to one prominent UK cognitive neuroscience professor, adults shouldn't hold such behaviors against them - that's just how their brains are wired.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a professor at University College London and the deputy director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, recently told The Telegraph that when adolescents tell their elders that, "nobody understands them," they might be right, neurologically speaking.

Over the past decade, Blakemore and her colleagues have been analyzing the development of the brain before and during the teenage years.

Among their findings are changes to grey matter in the prefrontal cortex responsible for some of the drastic changes in attitude during this time of life.

Blakemore and the researchers working in her lab have regularly been reporting new discoveries of observable, measurable changes in the structure and function of adolescent brains, the British newspaper said. Not only is she working to learn how the mind of a teenager works, she wants to use that information to change education policy to better maximize their learning potential.

"We work with many schools all over London for research purposes, and I hope that in the next 20 years or so we will be applying more evidence-based science in education because at the moment there is not much," she told the Telegraph on Saturday. "We know a lot about how the teenage brain learns and how it develops but it hasn't filtered through yet."


Smart negotiations: A sturdy chair for a tough-willed politician

As yet another summit passes into history, journalists are trying hard to interpret something which continues to puzzle them: how on Earth could the four presidents stay clear-headed throughout sixteen hours of negotiations and stick to their respective agendas to the very end?

President Putin, however, opted for a chair from another set – a hard one, with a straight back
The venue for the February 11 Normandy Four meeting remained the same as in September of last year: the vast marble-and-glass Independence Palace in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. The room for negotiations, however, was shifted from a spacious hall with a large table to the "Green Room" proposed by President Putin. The room features a low coffee table in the middle, which is impossible to bend towards and absolutely ill-fitted for 16-hour-long negotiations.

While the extended negotiations with other members of the delegations were held in a larger room, the four heads of states stuck to the Green one.

The room was furnished with a soft sofa and two armchairs from the same set, which were taken by Presidents Hollande and Poroshenko and Chancellor Merkel.

Comment: Again and again Russians show much higher intelligence and competence when it comes to diplomacy and political negotiations. Perhaps it has something to do with Lavrov smoking, and the other side being utterly stupid when it comes to analyzing situations and people.


Develop your thinking skills through writing

Better thinking come from practice. What are some good ways to practice? You can sit and think, for starters, you can work on specific puzzles and problems. You can have interesting discussions with others. There may not be a "best" way to practice your thinking skills and boost your brainpower, but one of the most powerful is to write.

Why writing? Because unless you are just copying words, to write is to think. There are three basic ways in which writing helps your thinking skills.

1. Writing clarifies your thoughts

You may have noticed how much clearer an argument or opinion becomes to you once you express it. Talking forces you to clarify your thoughts, but not just to the other person. Putting thoughts into words is also a process of telling yourself the logic behind what you "felt" or what you only partly understood. You try to make the other person understand, but you are often also bringing yourself to that understanding, or at least a better one. You are thinking aloud.

Writing accomplishes the same thing. It is essentially like talking to the paper or computer screen. Compared to talking, it has the disadvantage of not giving you outside feedback. On the other hand, you get to express and develop your thoughts without interruption. This is a great way to work on your thinking skills. Boost your brainpower by exercising your "explain power."

Comment: See also:

Book 2

Reading as a form of life-support

© The Independent, UK
Reading a gripping novel causes biological changes in the brain which last for days as the mind is transported into the body of the protagonist.
One in three adults in the UK - or 16m people - rarely or never read for pleasure. A new survey of 4,164 adults, including both those who read and those who don't, found that adults who read for just 20 minutes a week are 20% more likely to feel satisfied with their lives.

Our research was not focused on people who are unable to read as a result of literacy difficulties or other impairments. We looked instead at people who can read - and often have been regular readers in the past - but who have lost the reading habit, often through a significant life-event, such as having children or falling ill. Two fifths of respondents for the survey, which I helped to conduct for the charity campaign Galaxy Quick Reads, cited lack of time as the chief barrier.

Mood and relaxation

Non-readers were 28% more likely to report feelings of depression than those who read regularly for pleasure. One in five readers said that reading helps them to feel less lonely. Both findings resonate strongly with our previous research at the University of Liverpool, in partnership with national charity, The Reader Organisation, on their shared-reading aloud model for adults and children.

Comment: For more information on the benefits of reading see:


Everyone can sing

Very few people are truly tone-deaf. Most just need to practice, a new study finds.

© carulmare/Flickr
Many universities have performance choirs, but the one at Morley College, an adult- education school in London, has an unusual caveat: It's a chorus for people who can't sing.

For the past 15 years, the school has run both choirs and special classes for people who want to learn to sing better (or at all).

But what about the truly tone-deaf, you ask? Those who couldn't carry a tune in a basket?

Comment: Studies have also shown that group singing helps with shared emotional experiences, social bonding and improves cognitive function. So don't worry about how you sound - sing out loud and strong!